- 6 Time-Saving Tips to Streamline Your Homeschool Schedule
Can I let you in on a little secret? Some of us don’t homeschool by the book (pun intended) every single day. There are many reasons I love my Sonlight Instructor’s Guide—such as the structured framework it offers, and the invitation to anchor our days with a Sonlight Morning Time—but sometimes, our homeschool doesn't look picture-perfect. In fact, we don’t even always flow through the Instructor's Guide in a linear way. (Depending on your personality, you either just gasped at the thought of a deconstructed Sonlight day, or you’re breathing a sigh of relief that you’re not the only one.) Here are my six time-saving tips for homeschool scheduling.
1. Rethink the Hours Considered School Time
Life throws curveballs sometimes, doesn’t it? Moves, illnesses, extended visits, medical appointments and other life disruptions can all muddle the orderly plans we’ve mapped out for the school year. When time is in short supply, it can seem difficult to fit all the school subjects into your school day. If you’re struggling to make it through the daily column in the Sonlight Instructor’s guide during the time you’ve set aside for school, give yourself the freedom to move some of those items into the rest of your routine. Remember, as homeschoolers, we have the luxury of learning from morning to night, not just during the hours brick-and-mortar schools allocate for education.
2. Use Sonlight Readers as Rewards
In the early years, when students are still learning to read, Sonlight Readers are designed to provide regularly daily practice toward reading mastery. But once students have attained fluency, there’s no rule confining those fantastic books to school alone. Keeping in mind that readers complement Read-Alouds once you reach History / Bible / Literature Level D, you can use Readers as rewards, to mark milestones, or—my personal favorite—to set aside and tuck into backpacks during road trips, air travel layovers, moves, or holiday breaks. (And don’t forget about the Summer Readers, either!)
3. Allow Kids to Catch Up on Read-Alouds Independently
Reading Sonlight books aloud to kids at bedtime works for many families, but can I be honest? In our home, the nightly routine is short and sweet—no lingering read-alouds. If you find yourself behind schedule on a book to the point it’s affecting your school routine—and you have an exceptionally strong reader, like I do—hand the book over to your child and let him or her catch up.
Of course, I’m not suggesting this as a replacement for reading aloud, but as a quick fix to brings that title back into alignment with the rest of the schedule.
(I’ll add this caveat, though: you’ll still probably want to read the book yourself later anyway, because Sonlight books are just that good. And you can’t truly lead an engaging post-reading discussion unless you’ve also partaken of the book’s delights!)
4. Listen to Audio Books, Even if They’re Out of Sequence with the Schedule
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I took a quick road trip. I knew we’d want to occupy the ten-hour drive with an audio book, but the next book on our Sonlight docket wasn’t available at the library. No matter—we just checked out a different Sonlight title, even though it wasn’t scheduled for several weeks yet. (If you’re open to shifting the designated schedule around from time to time, you can get a lot accomplished.) By the time we returned from our three-day weekend, we’d knocked an entire book off our Sonlight schedule.
And here’s my favorite audiobook tip: ask your librarian what free audiobook options are available to you digitally. You probably have access to more audiobooks than you realize, simply by logging in to audiobook websites with your library card. We can’t imagine life without Overdrive and Hoopla! No CDs to keep track of, no late fees, and no errands to return the audiobook when you’re done.
5. Play Memory Songs Outside of “School Hours”
When I think back to my childhood, one of my most persistent memories is digging my bare toes into the olive green and gold shag carpeting and singing Geography Songs (via cassette tape) while playing LEGO bricks with my brothers.
Was it during school hours? No. Did I complete an accompanying worksheet? Nope. Did my mom quiz me on it? No. Can I still sing the songs and remember my geography facts? That’s a resounding yes!
Sonlight carries the most wonderful memory songs for geography, history, and science as well as for songs for Scripture memory. When you page through your Instructor’s Guide, you’ll see that in some levels, these are scheduled into the daily assignments. But these terrific songs don’t need to stay there—incorporate them into your daily life, outside of school. Play these songs in the car, over lunch, or during free time. You’ll be delighted at how much will stick.
6. Send Some Books to the Free-Read Shelf Early
I’m so thankful for the variety of books Sonlight includes in each level. As we progress through the school year, we move Sonlight books from the “scheduled” shelf to the “free-read” shelf. And the narrative and visual encyclopedias always seem to find their way onto the “books we’ll never sell” shelf.
Do your children prefer to pour over these more visual books independently, rather than listen as the captions are read aloud? My daughter definitely does. And I’ve heard from other Sonlighters, too, that the captions sometimes feel disjointed to read aloud. If you have strong, motivated readers, you may want to consider skipping the scheduled reading for these types of books altogether, and send them to the free-read shelf early.
If you’re worried your kids won’t make the connections between what they’ve read on their own in Time Traveler and what you’re reading aloud out of the history spine, don’t be! A Sonlight education teaches to link big ideas together, and see history in context.
And a Sonlight education is a flexible lifestyle, too, not a rigid set of guidelines. Rather than becoming subservient to the line items in the Instructor’s Guide, give yourself the freedom to adapt the schedule to best serve your family. Your approach probably won’t exactly match that of your fellow Sonlighters—and that’s the point! Homeschooling allows for customized educational plans to meet the exact needs of each child.
So allow the excellent framework of the Instructor’s Guide to direct you, yes, but do not allow yourself to become its slave. Homeschooling is all about flexibility and freedom, and “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Ephesians 5:1)
- Why Sending Your Child to Public School Won’t Solve Your Problems
We’ve all been there: those days when you just aren’t sure you are doing enough. When you’re certain the school down the street will do a better job that you can. Times you are so frustrated you figure it just can’t hurt to try public school for one short semester.
Parenting is full of doubts. Homeschooling, even more so. However, when those doubts hit, anchor yourself in the truth that sending your kids to public school won't solve your problems.
Students Outnumber Teachers
Yes, there are some great teachers in schools. However, your child will not be surrounded by great teachers. Instead they are surrounded by peers. Thus the majority of what they will learn will come from other students.
This would be fine if we could pick the students in the class and control their behaviors. But their classroom will have children whose parents’ have a mix of standards of proper behavior. Some will be similar to those your family has; others will have vastly different standards.
My oldest daughter has a cousin her age. They were born weeks apart and until age 4 played together beautifully. However, at age 4, her cousin started preschool, and she did not. Within weeks, I noticed a change in her cousin’s behavior. He started becoming more abusive, pushing and pulling and grabbing toys. He started swearing and using words his mother and I didn’t allow our children to use. Also he started lying to his mother and trying to hide things from her. When his mother asked why he was behaving such, he explained that was how the boys in his class acted.
Not every child will pick up negative behaviors from public school. But many will, especially those who are easily influenced by others.
You’ll Still Have Homework
Unfortunately, just because schools assume the bulk of the teaching doesn’t mean that they manage to get all the seat work done in the classroom. Even schools that state they don’t send homework home for students to complete, will often recommend extra work at home:
- 20 minutes of reading aloud with a parent each evening
- memorize spelling lists
- finish worksheets still incomplete from class
- work on big projects
In schools that do send home homework, even children as young as kindergarten might have up to an hour or more each evening. You may find that you are spending a greater percentage of the time with your children on schoolwork than when you homeschooled!
Only now, you’ll be less in control of what they are learning and how they are learning it.
School Discipline May Not Carry Over to the Home
Schools have a job to do, and that is to impart academic knowledge. If your child’s issues are behavioral in nature, school generally doesn’t fix those issues at all. It’s true teachers do expect respect and intervene when children misbehave. But self-control in the classroom doesn't always transfer over to home life.
Schools won’t make your child stop fighting you on every issue, or stop talking back to you, or make them obey the first time you say something. Schools won’t improve their attitude toward siblings.
In fact, schools may make all of these problems worse. Your child will be exposed to new ways to talk back, friends who delight in trying to outdo each other on the rebellion scale, and children who are willing to introduce your child to new temptations. Because you and your child will be spending less time together, and they will be spending less time with their siblings, you might find the distance between you growing.
It’s not uncommon for children to treat teachers with one set of attitudes, friends with another, and parents with yet another.
You Get the Leftovers
Once your child enrolls in school, the system gets the best parts of your child. The school gets them when they are fresh in the morning, 5 days a week.
You get what’s left over:
- The early mornings when they don’t want to wake up.
- The evenings when they are tired from eight hours of focused education and don’t want to do their homework.
- The weekends when you try to cram in all the fun things you’d like to do.
- The days off when everything is crowded because everyone else is off, too.
- The attitude left over from trying to be good for so long in the day.
- All the day’s frustrations when they have reached their boiling point.
Their brightest smiles will be shared with their friends, not their parents and siblings.
With homeschooling, you get it all—the good and the bad. When your kids attend public schools, the teachers and friends seem to get the bulk of the good while you’re left holding more and more of the bad.
This isn’t to say there aren’t positive things that can come from sending them to school, or that they’ll always be in a bad mood. That certainly isn’t the case with most children. But you will get less of the good.
Teachers Have Agendas, Too
Most teachers choose the education profession with the intention of building up students. They work tirelessly for little reward and even less thanks. They deal with all kinds of students and parents on a daily basis.
But, teachers are all different. They come from different families with different values and different ideas. So, you will, from time to time, run into a teacher whose values are very different from yours.
- You might find your child has a teacher who likes bringing LGBTQ issues into the daily discussions, and you don’t agree with their viewpoints on the lifestyles.
- You might find your teacher is an atheist, and your values are strictly Christian in nature.
- Their teacher might belittle any notion of Creationism, when your family happens to be devout in believing the Earth is young.
- Or, perhaps their teacher (or your school district) believes in teaching sexual education as young as first and second grade, while you aren’t comfortable with the amount of detail they provide.
- Your school might pressure you to get your children vaccinated, when you feel vaccinations are not a good choice for your family.
The district itself often has agendas, too, and while you might find a teacher who isn’t in agreement with that agenda, they must teach certain things to remain in compliance and keep their teaching license. Often, districts promote test scores above all else as that is how the district itself is graded, and many are willing to make sacrifices in other areas to make sure that scores are the best they can be. Or a school board might have many members who hold to a certain set of beliefs, and advocate that these beliefs be brought into the classroom.
While many of these things are good to talk to children about, and the teachers usually intend no harm, it may be that you are blindsided by some of the issues your child learns at school and some of the values that are taught.
Schools Probably Have Lower Standards than You Do
Sending your kids to public school won't necessarily improve their academics. Schools do care about test scores and graduation rates because that’s how they are evaluated. But beyond that, schools don’t care a whole lot about each individual child's comprehension.
Schools are ready to accept that some children struggle in subjects more than others. A child can miss 40 of 100 problems wrong, and no one will be very concerned. After all, that's still passing.
While your child may receive good grades in school, the quality of their education may still be suffering, compared to what you are teaching at home.
Take a local tenth grade English class as an example. The teacher of this class told me what the class includes:
- students watch 7 movies, based on literary works such as Shakespeare, Our Town, and Pride and Prejudice
- students read 4 novels
- students compose 1-2 writing assignments on each movie or novel
This would not be enough for many homeschooling parents to feel comfortable counting this as a high school credit, yet a hundreds of students each year are getting their sophomore English credit with this course. Contrast those requirements with Sonlight's rigorous high school literature courses which require at least a dozen works of classic literature with assorted writing assignments and projects.
So, while you at home might be struggling to do extra assignments and getting perfect or almost perfect scores across the board, the public school in your area might be willing to let go of those high expectations and let work that you would consider sub-par slide through with good grades.
When you start to think that sending your kids to public school is the answer to your parenting or homeschooling woes, take a hard look at what schools in your area can offer. In many cases, public school won't solve your problems. Putting your kids in school may trade one set of difficulties for another, but it's rarely a fail-proof panacea for all that ails your child.
- A Pick-me-up for the Discouraged Homeschool Mom
- Are you feeling frustrated and wonder if homeschool is really worth the sacrifice? You might question if homeschooling is still the right choice for your family.
- Perhaps you know that homeschooling is what’s best for your children, but you wonder if it’s best for you.
- Maybe you are certain that you want to continue homeschooling, but you are feeling defeated and blah.
I've faced all of these feelings! When I morph into the discouraged homeschool mom attitude, I use a simple but effective exercise to make sure I'm on the right track. This pick-me-up can help you, too!
List All the Reasons You Chose to Homeschool
Sit down with a paper and pencil and jot down all the reasons that you initially began homeschooling.
- Were you looking to provide your children with a better academic environment?
- Were you kids ill-suited to sitting in a classroom?
- Did you want more freedom (religious and otherwise) for yourself and your family?
The list doesn’t have to be in order of importance or categorized or even spelled correctly. Just get your thoughts on paper. If it helps here are a few of the reasons that quickly pop to mind when I think about why I originally chose to homeschool.
- More family togetherness
- Integrating our faith into school time
- Freedom to teach in ways best suited to each child
- Able to choose a literature-rich curriculum that reflected our values
- Less rushing and time-dependent learning (no school bells or class time allotments)
- Increased opportunity for varied extracurricular activities
- No unnecessary testing
- Better access to good foods, the outdoors, and physical exercise
- Excitement about learning new things together as a family
- More sleep and less rushed mornings
- Access to more diverse peoples and experiences, typically not found within a peer aged classroom
I have homeschooled my kids from the beginning and never put them into a school system. My husband and I chose to homeschool independently of the performance and reputation of our local school system. If you pulled your children from a local school, you likely have additional reasons to homeschool, reflecting your experience with traditional school.
- Unique needs that weren't being met in the classroom
- The classroom didn't provide enough challenge, especially for gifted children
- The cost of private school
Challenges Arise, and Homeschooling Isn’t Always Perfect
Inevitably, once you’ve been homeschooling for a while, challenges will arise. Some you may have seen coming; others may be a complete surprise. Personally, I had no idea how draining it would be to be with all of my young children all day long. I also had a limited understanding of how strong-willed my children could be when faced with topics they didn’t want to learn. It’s been a learning experience for all of us.
At this point let me caution you. We are not creating a list of pros and cons. We are actively looking for evidence that our initial decision to homeschool is a good one. Being discouraged or having a rough day doesn’t mean that the reasons you choose to homeschool are no longer valid. It does mean that it might be time to take a few moments to remember the reasons homeschooling is worth doing.
Are Your Original Reasons to Homeschool Still Valid?
Do your children still stand to benefit from learning at home? If the answer is yes, you still have a pretty strong argument for continuing to homeschool and hopefully a list to inspire you to continue.
If homeschooling hasn’t provided all the expected benefits, why not? Would placing the children in a school system resolve the issue(s)? If so, it may be time to research educational options in your area. If not, try to determine what changes could be made in your homeschool to put it more in line with your original goals. Get an outside perspective on your situation—Sonlight Advisors have counseled thousands of discouraged homeschool moms just like you. They can help.
List New Benefits
There are likely additional reasons for homeschooling that you may not have recognized when you first started. Even little reasons like not having to rush in the morning or having more flexibility with family vacation time are precious perks of homeschooling. More than one homeschooling family enjoys pajamas and hot chocolate during school time. Don’t overlook the little things that make homeschooling fun and beneficial for you and the kids!
On those days when you become a discouraged homeschool mom and are struggling to see all the expected benefits, pull out your list! Read it over and take some time to soak in the value you bring to your kids as a homeschool mom. Accept the encouragement that the list provides and move forward, knowing you're doing what’s best for you and your family.
- 4 Things to Drop From Your Homeschool When You’re Doing Too Much
Most homeschooling parents are guilty of trying to do everything and then feeling like failures when we discover we can’t do it all. We want to
And while we can readily acknowledge that we are doing more than we need to, figuring out what to give up is hard. Here are four guidelines for choosing what to drop from your homeschool schedule.
1. Drop Anything Done for the Sole Purpose of Validating Outsiders
Perhaps a family member told you that a music lessons are essential to a well-rounded education, but your children aren’t really musical. Or, perhaps you are trying several sports at once so you can find out which sport they excel at because your family feels that a sports scholarship shows a well-rounded child. Perhaps your sister-in-law insists you must do math drills daily to make sure your children are well versed in the basics, but your children are getting no educational benefit from them.
Your child’s education shouldn’t be about proving to the world who you are. Instead, focus on who your child wants to be and what they are interested in learning, and choose activities that bring peace and joy to your household. When we spend time trying to earn validation from others, we run the risk of turning into who they want us to be, not who we are. So, instead, do what makes your household happy.
2. Drop Anything Done Out of Guilt
If you are doing an activity solely because you are afraid your child is missing out on an experience, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Instead of looking for what your child might be missing and trying to fill those gaps, instead focus on the opportunities you are creating for your child. If you’re struggling through a book simply because you should read it, or because it’s on a list you must complete, then you are missing out on an opportunity to fill that time with a good book you might both enjoy and still learn a lot from.
Many times, we feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing. But if what everyone else is doing isn’t making us happy, then we need to instead focus on what would make our lives more enjoyable or bring more peace to our homes. I don’t homeschool my children so they can blend into the world, but so that they can stand out in it.
3. Drop Anything Causing Excessive Tension
How many times have your fought with a child over completing a math page, a handwriting page, or a reading assignment? Those battles are sometimes necessary, but just as often, they aren’t worth the argument.
Doing every page in a math book might build character, but no hard-working adult ever looks back and says, “Well, if they had let me skip that one page in my math book, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Look for compromises:
- put the assignment away and find another way to teach it—maybe a game
- cross off half the problems
- choose a different curriculum with a fresh approach
- switch to a different unit and revisit this one in later months
- skip a book here or there
Here are details on two of my favorite compromise techniques.
Handwriting Hack: Highlighter Tracing
Have a child who just doesn’t want to do handwriting because it’s too hard? Try using a yellow highlighter to write out the words for them. Then have them trace.
Handwriting is largely a motor memory skill, so as long as they are practicing writing the letters and words correctly, it will work just as well to trace as to write them independently each time. Once the motor memory has memorized the skill to the point where the child can write without thinking about writing, then handwriting is complete.
Reader Hack: The 2 Skips Rule
Have a child who doesn’t want to read a certain book? If you’re using a literature-rich program such as Sonlight, your child will miss out on very little by skipping a book or two along the way. My children are allowed two skips per History / Bible / Literature (HBL). Here are the rules:
- Skip books must be approved by mom. She retains the right to refuse a skip if the book is integral to the HBL program.
- Skips can be claimed only after the child has read about 10% of the book.
- Only two books can be skipped. So if they desire to skip a third book, then they must go back and read one of the two books they skipped.
4. Reschedule Things that Don’t Need to Be Done Daily (Or Even Yearly)
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of covering every subject every day of every homeschool year. But you don't have to do it this way!
If you feel bogged down trying to fit in Bible, language arts, reading, phonics, handwriting, spelling, science, math, state history, world history, American history (or history of another country), foreign language, Latin, Greek, art, art appreciation, music, music appreciation, typing, .... consider a different approach. Although all these subjects are required, they aren’t all required every year nor all at once. When trying to fit in every subject, remember there are options besides every day Monday through Friday:
- unit study that spans multiple weeks
- weekend intensives
- weekly co-op classes
- summer camps
Don’t do more than is required if you aren't enjoying it. If you happen to love science and can’t get enough, five or more hours may suit your family, but if all your children really want is to do some experiments every few weekends, that may be enough.
So often, we get so focused on what we are missing or not getting done that we forget to look at the big picture. If a child is learning math, does it matter if they do every problem on a page, or can they be allowed to only do the odds or evens? (The answer is yes!)
No college will care if they learn to read from a book or from a game. By making a few changes and letting go of unreasonably high expectations, a more balanced and relaxed homeschool life will blossom. When that happens, and children have time to explore and have fun, you’ll find they learn even more on their own.
- 4 Reasons a Second Generation Homeschooler Chooses Sonlight
“Not another new school for my children…”
It was the early 90’s. My mom and dad were church-planters who moved every 1-2 years—from Illinois to Colorado and then to Oregon. They had three children at that point, and the stress of switching schools was taking a toll on my older brother. He would be going into third grade, but it would be at a new school… yet again.
My mother was heartbroken over the impact the constant transitions had on her children.
But wait. My mom’s cousin had been telling her about homeschooling. She said she used and loved Sonlight curriculum because it was well done and comprehensive. It offered everything you needed to succeed as a first time homeschooler. The Instructor's Guides would walk you through each day of each week.
This seemed like an answer to the frequent school switching!
My parents prayed about it and decided to give homeschooling a try after moving from Colorado to Oregon. She ordered the third grade and Kindergarten Sonlight programs for my brother and me.
We all loved it! My mom’s cousin was right—Sonlight provided us with everything we needed to succeed! I loved the books my mom read to us, and so did my brother. The Instructor's Guides (IGs) gave my mom confidence to teach us because she knew she was covering all the subjects we needed.
Homeschooling Was a Comforting Constant
Soon my younger sister was old enough to start Sonlight preschool. Then along came my fourth sibling, and we were moving again. But with all of that change, we had three secure constants:
- our faithful God
- our close-knit family
- our homeschooling with Sonlight curriculum
Five children, at least six moves (three to different states), and Sonlight curriculum were a great combination! I loved learning!
Getting our Sonlight box was like Christmas all over again. As I got older, I would help my mom prepare our order and served as an informal school librarian. I knew all the books that belonged with each History / Bible / Literature (then called Core) that I had completed. When new books were added to my younger sibling's programs, I was eager to devour them.
I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to homeschool my children using Sonlight, too.
At age 15, I graduated from high school. Then in the fall I turned 16, I enrolled at our local community college, seeking an Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. I had to take only one remedial math course—Algebra. I scored very high on the English and reading comprehension sections of the assessment test at the community college, so I was able to go straight into the college-level English course my first semester. I felt very well prepared for college and enjoyed most of the courses.
Sonlight helped my mom lay the foundation for a life-long love of learning and provided excellent educational footing for my siblings and me when we pursued further studies.
Fast-forward 15 years from my high school graduation. I now have four young children of my own with six moves under my belt since my marriage almost 11 years ago. Just as I envisioned as a young girl, my children use Sonlight! Here are the top four reasons I continue to choose Sonlight as a second generation homeschooler.
1. Sonlight Provides Structure and Preparation
I work 25 hours a week as the Registrar at Christian Leaders Institute, administering the Degree Programs which provide free, online, high-quality ministry training to people all around the world. At the same time, I'm homeschooling my third grader, Kindergartener, and Preschooler.
I need the structure of Sonlight!
I work in the morning and do schooling in the afternoon. I don’t have time to prepare lesson plans myself. And fortunately I don't have to. Sonlight’s IGs are clearly laid out by week, day, and subject. I can work part-time and homeschool, thanks to Sonlight! And I have peace of mind, knowing that I am providing my children with an awesome foundation. Which brings up the second reason I choose Sonlight…
2. Sonlight is Comprehensive and Customizable
Sonlight’s is comprehensive and has multiple options for subjects so that I can tailor the curriculum to each child’s learning style and interests while ensuring that they are learning what they need to know. One of my daughters struggled with Singapore math in first grade. We switched to Saxon—a great fit for her and no more tears! Sonlight strives to pick the best of the best and give you options to fit your family’s needs.
3. Sonlight Holds a Christian Worldview
While Sonlight has a strong Christian foundation and worldview, it also provides information about different perspectives from cultures from around the world. This combination of different worldviews shared in the light of our Christian foundation teaches my children both discernment and compassion.
Sonlight isn’t a narrow-minded curriculum that overly shelters kids from reality. No, our children will go into the world, and so they need to know about and be prepared to interact with different worldviews and cultures while keeping centered in the Lord and His Word. Sonlight prepares my children for this kind of lifestyle.
4. Sonlight Means Excellent Books
Sonlight introduces us to so many excellent books!
- Books with substance.
- Books that tackle difficult topics.
- Books that are fun, whimsical, thought-provoking, or historical.
Sonlight does a wonderful job of selecting books that are both age appropriate and connect with the history and/or science topics. Again the word comprehensive comes to mind.
Many of my Sonlight Readers and Read-Alouds are still some of my favorite books, and now I get to re-read them again with my children. And since Sonlight is always looking for and adding fresh books, I get to discover new adventures and stories, forming new favorites, as I read these new selections with my children.
Sonlight is a curriculum that has it all— everything I needed as a child and now everything my children need to have a life-long love of learning, a strong Christian foundation, and a solid academic base. Sonlight makes teaching and learning an exciting adventure. From childhood as a student to adulthood as a teacher, Sonlight has been a blessing in my life!
- How to Help Your Children Appreciate Their Homeschool Education
Not until I was an adult did I fully appreciate how my father educated me.
I had a childhood that you typically find only in dreams. I was raised on a mountain in the heart of the River Valley of Arkansas. My dad worked at the Winthrop Rockefeller Center on Petit Jean Mountain, a non-profit organization that worked with countries all over the world to make life better for many.
I can remember visiting my dad at work and walking into the dining room at lunch time and feeling like I was taking a trip around the world. People from every continent were represented. My dad would often introduce me to someone from another country as if they had been friends for years. He longed for me to understand how amazing the opportunity was to speak to representatives from many of the countries of the world.
But I was painfully shy and barely managed a simple hello before ducking back behind my dad again. He would take me around and tell me about all the projects that WRC had begun and why it was important. He taught me one of Mr. Rockefeller’s mottoes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, feed him for life.”
Later in my childhood, my dad took us on a rare family trip to see an Egyptian Tombs exhibit. I decided early on that I wasn’t interested and spent my time there counting down the minutes until we left. I look back on these moments now and think, “I had no idea how truly amazing those opportunities were!” This realization caused me to question...how will I help my children to appreciate the experiences I provide them?
I will give them a framework to appreciate education.
1. Love Learning
Growing up, I thought that history was the most boring subject I ever had to sit through. I remember one teacher in particular who made me actually look forward to my history class, and it was simply because she genuinely enjoyed it. There was a spark in her eye when she lectured. That little spark I saw caused me to think that maybe history wasn’t so bad.
When we teach, our kids pick up on our attitude toward subjects. If we enjoy history, chances are good that they will too. If we are really excited about a new book, our kids will probably be really excited too. Model your own love for learning. Talk about how it makes you feel to learn something new even though you aren’t in school anymore.
2. Use Living Books
This is huge. There is nothing that kills curiosity more than a dull, dry textbook. A living book, written by a person who is invested in the material is the best way to learn about the world. Living books open our eyes to culture, history, and possibilities. We come alive when we read enthralling accounts of wars, disappearing civilizations, and cultures of the world. Don’t squash your child’s interest with dry reading.
Dream with your kids about the places you’d like to visit. As you study topics, think of places that would be fun to visit to learn more about your study. Daydream outloud about what you would do there and the things you might be able to see. Look to see if there is an online tour of a great museum.
Would you like to visit Europe? Tell your kids about it. Ask them where they would love to visit. Work with them to expand their dreams beyond popular theme parks. You might even have them help plan an educational road trip. Giving your child ownership can help them be invested so they will appreciate the opportunity more.
4. Give Them Experiences Even If They Don’t Appreciate Them
Chances are that our children won’t appreciate the experiences we provide to the extent that we would like. But, do it anyway.
Because one day, they will be like me, and they’ll remember the opportunities you gave them. That will inspire them to give those same experiences to their children...your grandchildren.
5. Teach Them the Bible
- When you study God’s Word and consider how His hands formed the galaxies, you can’t help but be in awe of space.
- When you study geography and find out the places where Jesus traveled, a flame is lit within.
- When you study history to find the civilizations that disappeared because of God’s wrath, you can’t help but tremble a bit.
Our kids must have an understanding of the Bible to appreciate education. It is the basis of Math, Science, History, Language Arts, Art, Music...the list goes on and on. I’ve always believed that if I am diligent to teach the Bible, everything else will come. So far, I’ve been right. God’s word is the most important part of the day, and it provides a framework for us all to appreciate the world around us.
Just the other day, I looked at my dad and said, “I wish I knew what a great childhood you and Mom gave me earlier.” I’m so thankful that even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, I was able to express my gratitude many years later for the memories that have lasted in my mind and heart all these years. I have no doubt that my parents’ love of learning rubbed off on me, and in turn, to my kids.
Our children will probably never know the great lengths we go to, the sacrifices we make, to assure that they have a great childhood. But in life, it’s the unseen acts that reap the biggest harvest. It’s being faithful in the little things every single day that build the framework for a lifelong appreciation of education.
- When Your Child Wants to Go to School (Instead of Homeschooling)
It’s common for homeschooled children (and their parents) to wonder about or want to try public school. But, when children start insisting they would rather go to school than be homeschooled, it can hit hard. Parents do not make the decision to homeschool lightly, so to hear a child demand the public school experience can be demoralizing. It may even cause a parent to question whether homeschooling is, in fact, the best choice.
If your child happens to fall into this category, here are some tips you might find helpful.
1. Imagination is Not Reality
Children don’t view the classroom how it really is, but rather by how they imagine it could be. Many homeschooled children have little to no idea of what school is really like.
- They aren’t able to predict the long hours being seated in a classroom, with little to do.
- Being told constantly not to talk or play or communicate with the friend sitting right next to them in class might be a foreign concept to them.
- They can’t predict coming home to even more hours of homework, with no one there to say, “This assignment is ridiculous. Let’s skip it.”
- They can’t comprehend things they haven’t experienced yet, like bullying, standardized testing, and the fierce competition of grades.
Make a list of the reasons you decided to homeschool. Think about why you made the choices you did, without considering the emotional pull of your child’s desires, which can block out sound reasoning.
For each reason you listed to homeschool, consider whether that reason is still valid today. If so, then weigh whether each reason can be negotiated, overcome, or reduced, to give your child a positive school experience. In most cases, you will find that your reasons to homeschool were, and are still, very valid.
2. Idealism Makes Children Overly Optimistic
Children, especially small children, are idealists. We’ve all seen, and often slightly envied, the ability of small children to be such optimists. They wait with barely contained excitement for Santa or the Tooth Fairy to appear, never considering that maybe Santa ran out of gifts this year or the Tooth Fairy is low on quarters. They still seem to be convinced that somewhere out there exists a land where princesses wear pink and ride unicorns and knights still roam about, looking for beasts to slay and damsels to rescue. They aren’t quite convinced that it isn’t good to eat candy and watch television all day long. Most children are such optimists that they tend to think everything is, and always will be, mostly good.
While this sense of wonder is fun to watch, it also means they have trouble seeing the negative side of school. They imagine school as one huge playground, indoors and out, where they happily spend hours having fun with friends and classmates all day long, only to be broken up by fun snacks and the occasional instance where they are forced to do something vaguely educational before being allowed to go back to fun and enjoyment with their friends.
You and I both know this mental image does not match reality.
When your child wants to go to school, open a dialogue in an effort to understand how they are viewing the school experience. Ask them to think about and describe what they think happens throughout the day. You may be very surprised at their responses. For example, I recently had this discussion with my 11-year-old. I was surprised to discover that although we had talked about public school from time to time, she was firmly convinced that school consisted largely of daily (or at the very least, weekly) field trips. In her mind, school children spent about an hour or two a day on academia, and the rest of the time was spent on field trips, fun activities, and playtime, even in fifth grade.
She didn’t believe me at first, and went to ask one of her friends who was visiting if it was true that they didn’t get to go on field trips more than once or twice a year. She was very disappointed to find out that most of her time in traditional school would be spent sitting at a desk doing classwork.
3. Going to School Isn’t About Going to School
Once you have a better grasp on the reasons you are homeschooling and the way your child views school, you can start to address the heart of the issue. In some cases, the child has a very specific reason to go to school, and it has nothing to do with being in school all day.
Once you have identified what they want from school, you can evaluate if the reason is valid enough to stop homeschooling or if it is merely a call to action to meet a need. Talk to your children about what they would like to get out of school. Often, you’ll find a child who insists on public school really just wants to experience a trivial element of the school experience.
- For example, one child just wants to go to school simply to ride a school bus. Meet this desire by riding a city bus with a parent or taking a tour of a school bus.
- Another child wants to go to school merely to eat a school lunch in a cafeteria. Easy! Eat at a cafeteria style restaurant such as Incredible Pizza or Luby’s or visit a cousin's school for lunch on a day that visitors are allowed.
- If your child wants more socializing options, perhaps increasing the frequency of play dates, joining a co-op, or taking part in additional extracurricular activities will provide the additional interaction your child craves.
If you can pinpoint the need, it’s easier to fill it.
4. Get to the Root of the Request
Often, an expression of wanting to go to school is really a disguised request for something else—something new, different, and/or more fun. Children often think of school as something fun and different, but you can find other ways to fill that need for something new, without having to go through the process of enrolling them in school.
Try new activities with your children. Sonlight offers many electives packages that might fill your child’s needs for something fresh. There are options for everything from art to music, and including typing, foreign language, and much more.
- Stock new boardgames.
- Get outdoors in nature, and enjoy some time going to new parks, exploring new places and having fun.
- Get out in the community.
- Go window shopping or join a class or activity. Try new things.
- Talk with a librarian at your local library. They often have information about a variety of community classes and activities.
- Involve extended family. Perhaps Grandma would like to show your daughter how to knit, or Aunt Margaret would love to show your son how to do some woodworking.
5. The Grass is Greener Syndrome
Just because a child wants to make a decision about their future, doesn’t mean they are ready and able to do so. Even with older children, such as 15- and 16-year-olds, it is important to remember they are still developing critical thinking skills. Most children are not ready to make mature, complicated, long-lasting decisions about their future without help. When a child wants to go to school, don't automatically let the child have the final decision.
The problem with allowing a child to make a choice of this caliber is that they are still children, with limited decision-making skills. Many parents can look back to days when they were in their teens or preteens and felt the pull of independence and the desire to make decisions on their own; and most parents will admit the decision they made, although not always with negative consequences, were not fully informed at best.
So, while it is fine for them to express their wishes and desires and concerns, the parent still is responsible for the final decision, and the outcome. Take a look at your child’s ability to make sound judgments in other areas of life:
- Does your child have the ability to make good food choices when on their own, or do they resort to junk and sugar if the choice is completely theirs?
- Are they mature enough to get a job that requires responsibility and keep it?
- Do they change their mind frequently?
- Are they able to present multiple viewpoints of their argument?
If you feel your child is mature enough to make a decision about how to be educated and can present a sound rationale, then it might be time to start giving more weight to their opinions.
But, if you’re not comfortable with the decisions your child tends to make on a daily basis, or you feel they are not taking into account the reality of the situation, then it might be wise to hang on to the decision-making authority for a while longer.
Parents want to do what is best for their children, and struggle when their child express wants and needs different from what the parent knows is best. But, big decisions should seldom be made based on emotion and fear. Instead, using logic and understanding, a parent can try to fill their child’s needs, without schools. Sometimes, it is enough to show them that you really are listening.
- Sonlight's 2018 Photo Contest Winners
At Sonlight, we love featuring real photos and stories from Sonlight families on the website, in our catalog, and on social media. Your homeschool moments are truly inspiring to the staff here at Sonlight as well as to the entire community of Sonlighters.
Congratulations to Sonlight's Annual Photo Contest Winners!
Thank you so much to everyone who submitted photos and stories in the Annual Photo Contest. The three winning photos have been selected! Each winning family featured below (in no particular order) will receive a $500 gift card to purchase more Sonlight curriculum. One family will be featured on the cover of a Sonlight Catalog.
W. Family, Sonlighters from Dallas, GA
“Thank you, Sonlight, for making this year so fun and easy!” writes Tiffany W of Dallas, GA. “Last year we used a different program and we struggled through it. This year we chose Sonlight and couldn't be happier! The open-and-go aspect really optimized my time as a mother of four (one of whom is a toddler and another a newborn). “I have loved being able to teach both my school-age kids (2nd grade and Kindergarten) from the same HBL. Not only is it a time saver, it's brought them together in a whole new way. I love watching them learn together.”
In this photo Charlie (8) and Millie (6) are thrilled to share their “end of the year, look at all we've accomplished” moment, also called a #sonlightstack.
M. Family, Sonlighters from Lincoln, RI
“A friend who used Sonlight suggested I try the PreK program ‘just to see,’ says Altagail M of Lincoln, RI. “Well, seven years later and homeschooling with Sonlight is the best parenting decision we ever made. I love learning with my children and the opportunities to encourage their natural gifts and strengths without the confines of a traditional classroom. These kids love to read, their attention spans are incredible, and we have enjoyed so much wonderful literature thanks to Sonlight. Time is our most precious commodity and I am so glad not to be missing their childhood.”
In Altagail's winning photo, Lily (9, PreK-HBL F), Gracin (7, PreK-HBL C), and Austin (11, PreK-HBL F) take advantage of a sunny day to homeschool outside.
K. Family, Sonlighters from Vero Beach, FL
“Homeschooling has been one of the best decisions we have made for our family. It has brought our family closer, and has allowed us great adventures together,” writes Sennu K of Vero Beach, FL. “One of my favorite memories this year was a trip to Disney World. On our way there I started reading Seven Daughters and Seven Sons aloud, and we got into the story so much that we ended up staying in our hotel room reading the book into midnight, because we couldn't put it down.”
In this photo, Sennu (Mom), Mae (4, not yet homeschooling) and Abby (12, HBL F) celebrate Abby's last day of sixth grade.
Although Abby (12; HBL F) is the only one currently homeschooling, their four oldest children who have finished homeschool and are all attending colleges, still enjoy taking part in her Read-Alouds, and often take turns reading the books together. “We so love the books Sonlight chooses, and look forward to our next year with HBL G.”
Share Your #sonlightstories Year-Round
Thanks again for making this year's contest a success. Keep sharing your #sonlightstories year-round! We love your Box Day photos, your day to day experiences, and the end-of-the-year #sonlightstack shots of all you've accomplished.
Use the #sonlightstories hashtag when you share on social media. You can also log into your account on sonlight.com anytime to upload both images and testimonials. You never know when something you submitted may appear in a catalog, on our homepage, or on the Sonlight blog
- Setting Up a Summer Routine for Kids Who Thrive on Structure
When you think of summer, do you envision carefree days of hammock swinging, endless cups of homemade lemonade, a stack of books you’ve wanted to read for a whole year, and absolutely nothing to do? I sure do!
But reality is more like this: my kids bickering over every little thing and stopping only to tell me every thirty minutes that they are bored, and one child in particular melting down at every turn because he can’t handle the break in his usual routine.
Sound familiar? I certainly hope I’m not the only one!
I learned a few years ago that summer does not equal total freedom for my family. Oh no, we still need a predictable routine. While this might make me sound like a real party pooper, it’s quite the contrary. A summer routine curbs the constant whining and bickering and keeps the meltdowns to a minimum. Here’s how it works at my house.
1. Morning Chores
I always joke that people need to come visit us in the summertime because it’s the only time of year that our house is really clean! During the school year, the demand on our time is so great that we do what we must to just get by with our household cleaning, but in the summer, we are able to devote daily time to keeping it in tip top shape, and morning chores is the key. I usually let my kids have slow mornings, but by about 9:00, they are ready to start in on their morning chores. This includes cleaning their room, taking care of personal hygiene, and seeing to a common area in our home.
2. Morning Time
Morning time is a household staple for my crew, but summer allows for a little change to the feel of our morning time. About mid-morning we will meet in the living room for our Bible Study and Read Aloud. It’s also the time when I will lay out the plan for the day and address our weekly schedule as needed. This really helps my melt-down child to feel in control of the day and heads off big emotions first thing.
3. Physical Exertion
Maybe I could legitimately label this P.E? I have found that to avoid bickering and boredom, kids need a good dose of physical exertion during the summer months, and it seems best to do it in the morning hours. Generally, after our morning time, I’ll take the kids and we will help my dad in his garden, we’ll do some yard work, walk the block, ride bikes, or visit a playground. Expending physical energy first thing in the morning is key to our summer routine.
4. Lunch & Afternoon Time
After P.E. we will prepare lunch and follow our summer tradition of watching an episode of I Love Lucy or Andy Griffith over turkey sandwiches. Then, we will have take two of morning time, only shorter. I’ll read aloud again from our book and we might talk about what we think or make predictions. We might slip in some summer schooling here by reading some Life of Fred or learning a new tune from Geography Songs.
5. Quiet Time
Quiet time is a must and one of my favorite parts of our summer routine! After our second read aloud of the day, I have everyone head to their bedrooms for some quiet time. They may read a book or draw or simply rest, but they must be quiet. My kids are all six years and up so I only require about 30-45 minutes of quiet time, but it does wonders! It also encourages reading without me pushing it.
6. Free Time
After quiet time, it’s time for free time. This sometimes includes swimming at Nana and Papa’s house or playing outside on the trampoline. While I encourage outdoor and imaginative play, this is their time and they are free to do whatever they like, within reason of course! We only allow video games on weekends, so for our family, this time is not to be used for video games.
7. Cool Down
During cool down, we pick up the house and get supper going. I usually will allow the kids to watch television at this point in the day, and everyone just rests and gets ready for dad to come home for the final round of play for the day.
Having a predictable summer routine—not necessarily a schedule—has done wonders for my family. Summer meltdowns are fewer and further between, and bickering, while not completely gone, is kept at a manageable level. What is your advice for surviving the summer months?
- 10 Reasons Why I Homeschool All Summer Long
Summer is usually viewed as a time of freedom from school, where children can spend long, lazy days with nothing to do, but have fun and relax. So, then, why would anyone want to force their children to do schoolwork during that time? Here are some reasons we choose to keep homeschooling through the summer:
1. Summers Are Hot
We currently live the desert where Southern Texas meets Northern Mexico; it’s dry, dusty, and often above 110 degrees. Since living in the pool during the day would result in sunburn, and it’s too hot to do much else except sit around under the air conditioner during the hottest hours of the day, during the summer I have a captive audience for reading a great book or doing a few pages of math.
During the cooler hours in the morning and evening, my children can still do all the things children love in summer, but during the dangerously hot afternoon hours, school is a great way to keep them from getting bored.
2. Summer Affords Time for Catching Up and Getting Ahead
You know that feeling you get when the end of the year is coming up and you miscalculated how many days it would take to get your math book done? Or, you just seemed to get more and more behind in your Read-Alouds as the year progressed?
Here's a solution. Join with those who believe that not every book needs to be finished, and let it go.
Or try to finish up the book at the beginning of the next year before delving into the new book selections. Also, you can do a little tiny bit each day, over the summer, and catch up at a more relaxed pace, and then start the next book so you don’t have to worry about the same thing happening next year.
3. Studies Show Children Lose Skills Over Long Breaks
Many textbook authors know this, and will purposely schedule review from the previous year at the beginning of their textbooks. They know children need to relearn and review past skills before progressing. However, if your child has been practicing reading, writing, and math skills all summer, they haven’t had a chance to lose those skills, and are ready to delve into the new material without review. You just sidestepped summer slide!
4. School Schedules Are Set by People Who Have Never Met Me
The people who decide when school starts and stops at your local school don’t care when it’s best or more convenient for my family to do school. They pick dates based on arbitrary reasons, such as
- when they would like to have off
- what’s always been done
- what’s most cost-effective
But I get to be the person who sets the schedule for my family, so I can take into account
- when my vacation would be cheaper
- when it’s more convenient for me to take breaks
- what is going on in my life
There's no need to let strangers run the show when it comes to my homeschool schedule. You, too, can homeschool all summer long like I do.
5. Summer Schooling Frees Up Days Elsewhere
- Having a new baby halfway through the school year? No problem. You’ve already made up days during the summer.
- Grandma suddenly gets sick and you need to spend time helping her get better? That’s OK, you’ve got plenty of days already banked.
- Your child breaks a leg trying to do stunts on her bicycle? You can afford to take off a few days until the worst of the pain is over, and even have extra time for the extra doctor’s appointments she’ll be needing. No need to stress.
And, most importantly, have you ever experienced that day in spring where you absolutely cannot keep your children's focus,because the weather is so beautiful that you all want to be outside? That's the perfect time to call a sun day (as opposed to a snow day) and head outdoors for fun. School will wait.
What about at Christmas time, when you need to decorate, make cookies, buy gifts, and do a million other small things, and school takes a backseat? Summer school days can easily fill in the gaps for the days you miss.
6. Getting Children Back Into Routine is Hard
Even a break as short as a week can mean bad behaviors and complaining increase. A long, 3-month break often means a lot of resistance and behavior issues until my children settle back into their routine. However, because we homeschool all summer long, I don't lose all of the hard work I put in during the year. Starting back goes more smoothly than it would otherwise.
7. You Can Choose How Much to Do
If doing a full day's worth of work sounds like more than you want to do during the summer, then choose what you would like to do. For example, many parents choose half days for summer schooling, whereas other parents feel half a math worksheet, a bit of journaling, and some reading is more than sufficient.
Sonlight offers great Summer Readers that are even more fun than their usual readers to fill those long hours. Many of these have become family favorites, such as The Terrible Two, Savvy, and Absolutely Truly.
8. Summer Schooling is a Chance to Add in Fun Extras
Sonlight recently released American History Lap Book kits perfect for my son who just finished History/Bible/Literature D. We can assemble the Lap Book over the summer, and get a great review of what we learned without doing a lot of formal studying. Sonlight has Lap Books available for 2 different levels, as well as a Hands-on Kit to go along with the content learned in HBL A.
You can also choose a few different electives, such as art, typing, or computer coding to do over the summer. That's not to mention all those great activities and videos you found online but haven’t been able to get to yet. By using summer to add in all those activities, you don’t have to feel guilty about not getting them done during the year when you meant to.
9. And All Those Books You Haven’t Gotten Around to
I recently discovered that Sonlight has now packaged all the books used exclusively in the 5-day programs into neat little bundles so you don’t have to try to figure out which books aren’t included in the 4-day programs. It’s now convenient and easy to order the missing books, and summer is a great time to add them in. They also have the extra readers bundled up, which make for great summer reading.
It’s a chance to finish all those books that were too much to squeeze into your year, and all the sequels you would love to read but haven’t had time for.
10. (My) Children Thrive with Structure
Our family likes to homeschool all summer long, but a lot of my friends and family prefer to do less because they have a lot of scheduled activities such as Vacation Bible School, summer camps, and summer classes. We work our schedules around those things, but I find if my children have nothing at all to do during the day, they tend to make more mischief and be slightly more destructive than they would otherwise. Children thrive on routine, so a modified routine during the summer helps to corral much of the chaos.
Doing nothing all summer long is great, and it works well for many families. Some of my friends can’t imagine giving up their long summers. However, other families like mine find that adding some school to their summer takes a lot of pressure off throughout the rest of the year and helps them to do more without a lot more effort.
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